Tag Archives: Change

A leader changes the ground rules

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The hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is – Eddie Van Halen

Have you ever been in meetings where the eyes of the people in the room are starring at you and almost instantly ask you to provide direction? What are we going to do now? For less severe issues, the response can be given on the spot, no problem. For deeper rooted issues, a change of the ground rules may actually be required. That demands leadership, but what kind? Course corrections aren’t easy, and not meant to be either.

Changing the ground rules implies taking risk and requires boldness. We are good at doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results (Einstein’s definition of Insanity). That’s because we have a natural resistance to change and are not audacious. Oftentimes we tolerate a problematic situation far too long, lean back, play victim and hope that somebody will stand-up and fix it. Changing the ground rules, means altering the operating model. That means changes to one or more of the following dimensions: people, process, technology, policies and procedures, governance structures, business partners, etc.

There are always opportunities to change the situation. There is always a way out. You have got to find them. You have got to go after them. You have got to become creative. You have got to thrive on willpower. There is no change without a plan and action. What is required is true leadership.

The first step is to take responsibility for the troubled situation and accept the current state. It is what it is. It can only go better if you start doing the right things moving forward. The leader that you want to see stepping up has a high level of accountability, confidence and grit. It’s crucial that the leader starts with building trust. That core value fuels the quality of relationships and boosts pace and performance. The leader must bring focus on the critical path activities and introduce concepts to better manage time, work load and quality of output. With that the process of change and turnaround has started. A relentless, unstoppable, collective effort with the intention to improve and win.

The leader must be able to quickly grasp the context. That can only happen if the leader has a broad orientation and interest, and has gained cross-functional and cross-industry knowledge and experience. The leader you are looking for is shrewd, sharp aware and far-sighted. He knows where to go and how to get there from your current state. The leader is a big picture thinker with eye for detail. That is a rare contrast. It is a very important characteristic as it determines the ability to go from planning to successful execution and implementation.

Changing the ground rules is an expert skill. That is because of the integrative nature of the dimensions that have to change almost all at once. Its like a chef of a Michelin star restaurant finding the right mix of ingredients, flavors and colors to serve the best meal ever. Day in day out like it was the last meal to come out of his kitchen ever. The leader is plan driven yet pragmatic in the execution. He strives for simplicity in input, process and output. There is a strong tendency to plan and take action based on facts. Simplicity and a fact-based approach greatly helps with building trust, proper communication, team bonding and performance. When people understand and deliver, they gain confidence and want to do more and more.

The leader is competitive and an achiever. He is comfortable with making decisions without exhaustive and comprehensive sets of information. He is decisive. With enough information he will come to the best decision. In most cases this is a consensus driven decision making process. Having said that, the leader knows when time is up and a decision can no longer wait to be made. At that point he will take the information available and make a decision using his instincts. Once the decision is made, the leader relies on his strengths to convince the key stakeholders. He does that by zooming in on the purpose and meaning of the decision. Why are we doing this? That’s the departure point in those discussions. The leader is a team player and encourages and stimulates collaborative behavior. With that he will make a dent in the Universe and make a transition to a better, future state.

Bas de Baat

Articles published on CIO.com

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Since the summer of 2015 CIO.com is publishing my articles!

The articles are about program management, business transformation and coaching of business leaders and top talent.

Here is a summary list:

5 things elite coaches do with top talent

10 things smart program managers do

Collaborative willpower drives organizational change

Find your sources of inspiration

The ABC’s of program management

Why business transformation programs fail

 

5P’s of Successful Project Leadership…

World-class performance is less a natural gift and more a daily decision. The best just practice more – Robin Sharma

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Perhaps you are familiar with the 5P’s of marketing, who were defined in the sixties by E. Jerome McCarthy. They are also called the marketing mix. He started of with 4P’s and years later a fifth P was added. Any marketing professional has heard of them, among many others, and up to today they are still influencing go to market strategies and other related marketing activities.

When the thought of the 5P’s of marketing came to my mind while I was driving to work this morning, I almost immediately tried to find the 5P’s of successful leadership. Perhaps that was because I was listening to an audio book about leadership and transformation.

Before I go into the 5P’s of successful leadership, I want to share with you a refreshing definition of what leadership is about. It is the one from Robin Sharma, a well-known author of books about leadership and also business coach:

“Leadership has nothing to do with the title on your business card or the size of your office. Leadership is not about how much money you make or the clothes you wear. Leadership is a philosophy. It’s an attitude. It’s a state of mind. And it’s available to each one of us”.

Enough said I think. Get rid of your stripes, get rid of your tie, put on your comfy clothes and lead. Think about what you want, make a change, mobilize, engage, manage, do, and you will achieve your goals.

What are those 5P’s of successful leadership?

Let’s start of with passion. We have a major responsibility in our lives and that is to understand what you want. Whether that is on the personal or business side doesn’t matter. When you have truly identified what you want, the passion to change and achieve it is instant. You don’t have to think about it, because it is already happening. People who are passionate about what they do, know what I am talking about. If you don’t, it may well be that you still haven’t found what you are looking for. Keep looking, because it is out there and perhaps just around the corner. If you feel that you need assistance, you may want to sit down with a coach to find that talent and go from there.

Talent is all about potential. You want to unlock your potential and bring that to a world class level. That means making an investment in terms of time and resources. Awhile ago I read a book about performance coaching, and the author mentioned that it takes about 10,000 hours to master any kind of talent. It does not matter what, 10,000 hours is what it takes. Whether you want to be a premier league soccer player for Manchester United with Louis van Gaal as coach, or a super model like in New York City, or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you need to learn and you need to practice continuously. Successful leaders understand that, embrace that and make it part of their daily routine. Learning and personal growth has become a habit.

Another key dimension of successful leadership is personality. There are ideas in the big world that say that to be a successful leader you need to be outspoken, an extrovert, master small talk, be the prime focus in social events, and be many other things. Good news is that some of these traits definitely help, but they are not the primary ones to be a successful leader. There are other more important personality traits. Think about the following: being humble and kind, being mindful about others, listen with empathy, work smart, learn and share, foster growth, being open and honest, being aware and creative, build trust, etc.

Successful leaders are positive minded. They are able to deal with set backs and turn that around in opportunities. They share that positive attitude with their environment and influence others to grow and become better. They maximize output by putting emphasis on the things that matter most. They prioritize and balance things at work and life very well. It is a way of life that inspires and motivates themselves and others.

Last but not least, perseverance. According the Meriam-Webster’s dictionary it means: “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”. In other words, successful leaders never ever give up. Because they know what they want to achieve (have a dream) and are so passionate about it, there is only thought that comes to their mind all the time: “make it happen, no matter what”. If you really think about it, perseverance is a build up of the other 4P’s of successful leadership. You must know what you want in order to change and achieve it. With passion you unlock your potential, leverage the best traits of your personality, trigger your positive mind, persevere and overcome obstacles and finally manifest your goals. That is what successful project leadership is about: 5P’s!

Bas de Baat

Program Manager Enterprise Applications, PMP©

Charisma and Pragmatic Project Leadership…

People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude – John Maxwell

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John Maxwell is a well-known American author of more than 75 books primarily about Leadership. Recently I listened to his audio book “Be a People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships” [2014] and liked his simple and practical interpretation of Charisma.

To start of, he is referring to Merriam Webster encyclopedia’s definition, which says: “Charisma is a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm”.

He also mentions that Charisma is a trade or quality that can be learned and developed, because it basically is a result of strong and effective communication and interpersonal relationship skills. That is important to know!

To completely take it away from the mystical, illusive and indefinable side, he breaks it down into eight different values:

C – concern
H – help
A – action
R – results
I – influence
S – sensitivity
M – motivation
A – affirmation

What do these values mean for the Pragmatic Project Leader? To come to that answer, I will share John Maxwell’s definition for each of the items first (cursive text) and than address them.

Charisma and Pragmatic Project Leadership, let’s break it down.

Concern (the ability to care)Charismatic people are truly concerned about people’s deepest needs and interests. They truly care and leave you feeling important.

There are a number of things that can you can do as a Pragmatic Project Leader in this area. One of them is to ‘listen with empathy’. When you are concerned with the well being of one of your team members or perhaps the entire team, you want to sit down and have a positive conversation where you primarily listen and are very mindful of the situation. Sometimes listening and acknowledging the situation is enough and all of what is being asked from you. Sometimes it entails more, in which case you often take on a coaching role and help the individual or team to think, change and achieve specific goals. Key is that you demonstrate your concern by sharing the right thoughts, speaking the right words and taking the right actions. Always handle with care and an appropriate level of discretion.

‘Standing for the team’ is another quality that you must have as Pragmatic Project Leader. Regardless of the team performance, whether is good, bad or excellent, you are always responsible for the outcome. Taking responsibility is a way of demonstrating to the team and all the other stakeholders that you care about them and that you are the orchestrator of what they do and deliver. Taking responsibility in this case has two meanings. Aside from the fact that the team is following the path that you set out for them, you are also responsible for taking corrective actions on a timely basis. A key aspect of that is the learning component. If you care about the team, you want to avoid that situations have a reoccurrence. Sitting down with the team and do a quick and effective lessons learned session is what you want to do.

Help (the ability to reach out)Charismatic people help other people with their problems. They inspire them to face their problems and offer creative solutions and hope.

The best way to reach out as Pragmatic Project Leader is to coach the person through the problem solving process, starting with awareness, assessment and acceptance. Before you move forward to the resolution phase, you want the person to accept the problem as that demonstrates ownership and skin in the game, which is needed to get into a winners mood. Once you have reached that stage it is time to set goals, create and discuss options, change and make things happen. There are a number of coaching models that you can follow. Max Landsberg describes a GROW model in is book “The TAO of coaching” [2003]

Action (the ability to make things happen) – Charismatic people are never boring. They are always creative and confident in the way they present ideas or solutions.

One of my previous posts describe key characteristics of the Pragmatic Project Leader. The ability to make things happen is in my mind based on the following aspects. Pragmatic Project Leaders have a detailed understanding of the vision and future state originally set by the Business Leader. With that understanding they are able to decompose the vision into a roadmap, timeline and actionable work packages. In other words they are far-sighted and have a plan to deliver the intended solution. Throughout the execution phase, Pragmatic Project Leaders are connecting the dots, pro actively responding to change, while keeping the project on track. In doing so, they are providing solutions that at times are creative, unique and tailored to the business context.

Results (the ability to produce) – Charismatic people are other-centered and genuinely wish for other people to succeed. This trait inspires productivity in people

Pragmatic Project Leaders are people and result-oriented at the same time. They are very capable of finding the right work-life balance for the team and often care less about how and where work gets done as long as it gets done. Delivering results and making quick wins to demonstrate performance is a key element of their overall project approach. They communicate results upwards in the chain of command frequently and clearly articulate the contribution of key individuals and teams.  Pragmatic Project Leaders understand that celebrating success and sharing the joy of making things happen collectively is the best multivitamin you can give to the team to boost productivity. Once you hit the first milestone, you want to hit the next and…

Influence (the ability to lead) – Charismatic people are natural leaders. They know how to influence people and make them follow their lead.

Pragmatic Project Leaders excel in verbal and non-verbal communications. Their intentions are transparent and they are keen on communicating what, why and how in a constructive and timely manner to the right stakeholders. Oftentimes they use visualization as a method of sharing information, because they realize that ‘pictures speak a thousand words’. Pragmatic Project Leaders understand the power of the informal network that any organization has and they are able to make it a meaningful instrument for the project and use it in achieving project goals, resolving issues and managing risks. As required, they are not shy of taking bold actions to keep the project on track. They are persistent in finding the right answers. This kind of behaviour tends to entice people and that is exactly why Pragmatic Project Leaders demonstrate it in a consistent manner

Sensitivity (the ability to feel and respond) – Charismatic people are sensitive to changing situations. They are adept at responding appropriately to the mood, feeling, and spirit of any situation.

‘Being ahead of the change curve’ is a quality that Pragmatic Project Leaders master. Because they always operate with the future state in mind, they understand what change is coming on their path and when. Pragmatic Project Leaders are successful when they give equal importance to people, process and technology. They understand that the vision can only be achieved when organizational change is marching ahead of process and technology change. Building trust within the organization, within the project team and with external stakeholders about what is to come is crucial to manifest the project goals. Pragmatic Project Leaders are well positioned to coach Business Leaders in initializing, planning, executing and communicating change as they have the helicopter view across the building blocks of the future state. As mentioned above, they are able to connect the dots at all times.

Motivation (the ability to give hope) – Charismatic people are good motivators. They are good at encouraging, believing, and supporting people in the face of despair and adversities.

Pragmatic Project Leaders understand what the team finds important and uses that as a motivator. This can differ by country, client, organization and project. They are mindful of the interest of the people and business context and offer realistic options when hurdles need to be taken. Because they are far-sighted and know how to get to the future state, they help the team to go through difficult times and overcome obstacles. Pragmatic Project Leaders are knowledgeable of people, process and technology dynamics and can motivate the team by providing a cohesive perspective on where things are, why they are where they are, and were things are going. They know that motivators are sometimes just small incentives and they are able to offer them at the right time with the right impact to the right people or team.

Affirmation (the ability to build up) – Charismatic people are good at acknowledging the accomplishments of other people. They think the best, believe the best, and express the best in others.

Acknowledging the performance and contribution of people is without a doubt one of the most important aspects of leadership. Pragmatic Project Leaders are keen on saying ‘Thank You!’ They want people to grow in their work and life and continuously help where and whenever they can. Oftentimes that is through a coaching. Sometimes people think that affirmation is equal to pizza lunches, parties or other form of social gatherings. It is good to have those kind of events for sure, but foremost and above all, it is key to understand that affirmation is as simple as a few nice words often with a bit of humour. Affirmation must be simple, must be frequent.

Now do you need to qualify on all of the eight values with the same level of proficiency before you become that person with that magnetic charm? I don’t think so. Your personality, knowledge, experience and preferences will make you excel more on certain values than others. And that is perfectly fine as long as overall your performance is such that you are able to make other people feel good about themselves, rather than to make them feel good about you. If people feel good about themselves and there are no obstacles for them to perform, they directly contribute positively to the outcome of the project. At that point you have done your job as Pragmatic Project Leader.

Bas de Baat

Program Manager Enterprise Applications, PMP©

Connect the dots…!

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever – Steve Jobs

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In today’s world, organizations are looking for pragmatic project leaders, who can steer projects to success by applying the technical aspects of project management combined with a practical leadership style.

 

 

What I mean with the technical aspects of project management is how the Project Management Institute (PMMI) has defined it in the “Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK).” For more information go to http://www.pmi.org/PMBOK-Guide-and-Standards.aspx

Pragmatic Project Leadership is going beyond PMBOK. It is about the leadership style and characteristics of the project leader. It is about the practical, no-nonsense approach where aspects like focus on making things happen, people management, building trust, learning and growth, play a critical role on project performance. They make or break the project. It is a combination of delivering projects by applying standard methods and tools, with special attention to the personal interest of people assigned to the project. That can for example be, job satisfaction, career development, personal growth, coaching, mentoring, team development, organizational change, culture change and transformation. The thought behind this is that when you take good care of your project staff, it has a positive impact on the project outcome as well as long term business benefits.

What are key characteristics of a pragmatic project leader?

  1. Have a broad interest and understanding of business, technology and organizational change management
  2. Are able to understand, communicate and translate the vision set by the business leader into a well defined and transparent path to attain it
  3. Act with confidence, optimism and determination
  4. Listen carefully and with empathy to their people, understand their needs, concerns and professional goals
  5. Bring people together to work as a team to manifest the end-state
  6. Is comfortable in dealing with ambiguity, taking calculated risk and managing conflict, disruption and deflection
  7. Is realistic, fact driven and has eye for detail
  8. Selects the right people for the project to get the job done
  9. Build trust in relationships and delegates responsibilities to people they are aligned with
  10. Is straight-forward, sharp aware, decisive, sound in judgement, intuitive, creative and far-sighted
  11. Prefers to operate at macro level using a helicopter view, but if  necessary can manage at detailed level
  12. Coaches top talent and help them grow in their careers
  13. Is a big picture thinker, connect the dots all the time and is able to tune by taking immediate corrective practical actions
  14. Is able to align business leaders on the execution of the vision
  15. They have a good sense of the power structures of the organization, are very capable of influencing and using it in favour of the project and future state of the organization

This is the first publication of 4 in total and speaks about the characteristics of the pragmatic project leader. Subsequent version will be about the Think.Change.AchieveTM process that PM Consult is using to advise and coach business leaders when they are engaged in IT business transformation projects.

Bas de Baat

Program Manager Enterprise Applications, PMP©

 

George Bernard Shaw and Pragmatic Project Leadership

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When  I decided that it was time to broaden my horizon beyond leading projects into areas like business coaching and writing, one of the things I did was looking up quotes of successful, accomplished and famous people. I find that a very inspiring activity. Besides great leaders like Colin Powell, Peter Drucker, Einstein and Stephen Covey, I came across George Bernard Shaw.

I would not be surprised that after reading and internalizing them, your perspective on project leadership changes, and that you are excited to follow a much more practical style.

“George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950) was an Irish playwright, a co-founder of the London School of Economics and Nobel prize winner in Literature. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was fordrama, and he wrote more than 60 plays. He was also an essayist, novelist and short story writer. Nearly all his writings address prevailing social problems with a vein of comedy which makes their stark themes more palatable. Issues which engaged Shaw’s attention included education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. ”

Here is a selection of this famous quotes:-

  1. Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything
  2. The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place
  3. Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will
  4. Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time
  5. The secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people
  6. You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’
  7. Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get
  8. Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance [there is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know”, see also the book “Think like a Freak” from Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner]
  9. People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it
  10. A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing

Hope you liked it. Let me know what you think.

Bas de Baat

Program Manager Enterprise Applications, PMP©

Think. Change. Achieve.

First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination – Napoleon Hill

In the introduction post I mentioned the   ‘THINK – CHANGE – ACHIEVE concept’ that I developed and which will be a core element of my blog.  A core skill of the pragmatic project leader is to simplify things without losing sight of reality and quality. Simplicity leads to a better and broader understanding of the WHAT, and therefore to a higher project success rate.

Many organizations today seem to have well educated staff and therefore tremendous brainpower. At times much more than needed. At times not very well utilized.  Yet I see many organizations struggling with defining WHAT they really want to achieve in projects. As a consequence organizations tend to make things much more complex than necessary and therefore struggle to manifest ideas and business needs. In my mind, you must THINK and CHANGE, before you can ACHIEVE and reach your full potential. What I mean to say is that if you want to attract a business need, the organization must THINK intensively about WHAT that business need is without complicating it. Once that has been defined, well documented and communicated, the next step is to invoke a CHANGE process where key stakeholders commit and align to the desired end state and buy into a transformation. In my future blog posts I will speak more in detail about definition, documentation and communication of the WHAT.

These first two steps, THINK and CHANGE, must be consciously followed and can take a lot of time to complete. This is a period where the executive business leader needs to ensure that the visionary leader and pragmatic project leader collaborate and work effectively together. It is time well spent, because it makes the final step of the project called ACHIEVE much easier. Also the momentum is being created for the team to start delivering the solution. When leaders can demonstrate alignment on the outcome and can clearly articulate the vision of the end state and the path towards it, team motivation gets a boost and all signs to make it happen go green.

More about THINK, CHANGE and ACHIEVE to follow.

Bas de Baat

Bas de Baat

Program Manager Enterprise Applications, PMP©